Planning to have a baby? Tips for healthy eating and more

Use the tips below to help you eat well and take care of your body as you prepare for pregnancy.

Eat well

  • Aim to eat three meals a day with healthy snacks in between. Use Canada’s Food Guide to help you eat the right amount and types of foods for your age group.
  • Eat 7-8 Food Guide servings of vegetables and fruit, including at least one dark green and one orange vegetable each day. Dark green vegetables are especially rich in folate, an important B vitamin needed for a healthy pregnancy. 
  • Eat a variety of grain products and make at least half of your grain product choices whole grains each day. Try whole wheat whole grain bread, whole grain pasta, brown rice, wild rice, oats, barley and quinoa.
  • Drink skim, 1% or 2% milk and alternatives. Drink 500 mL (2 cups) of milk every day for vitamin D. Drink fortified soy beverages if you do not drink milk. Compare the Nutrition Facts table on yogurts or cheeses to make lower fat choices.
  • Select lean meat and enjoy meat alternatives such as beans, lentils and tofu. Have at least two 75 g (2 ½ oz.) servings of fish each week. Learn about what fish are safe to eat.
  • Include 30 to 45 mL (2 to 3 Tbsp) of unsaturated fat each day, including vegetable oils, salad dressings, soft margarines and mayonnaise.
  • Limit foods that are high in fat, salt and sugar like chips, salted pretzels, candy, sweetened beverages, cakes and cookies.  Learn more about fats, salt and sugar.

Get important nutrients 

Some nutrients, like folate (folic acid), iron, calcium and omega-3 fats are especially important during pregnancy.  Find out which foods are rich in these nutrients.

Take a multivitamin with folic acid 

Health Canada recommends that all women who could become pregnant take a multivitamin containing 0.4 mg of folic acid every day. Folic acid can help lower the risk neural tube defects (NTDs).  Neural tube defects affect a baby’s brain and spinal cord. Start taking a multivitamin with folic acid for at least three months before you become pregnant.

Be active 

Start with gentle activities like walking and swimming for short periods of time.  Gradually increase the time you are active to 30 minutes a session.  Talk to your health care provider before starting a new physical activity program. 

Do not drink alcohol 

Avoid alcohol when you a planning to become pregnant. If you need help to stop drinking, ask your healthcare provider for advice.
There is no safe amount or safe time to drink alcohol during pregnancy. Drinking alcohol while you are pregnant can cause birth defects known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).
Learn more about alcohol and pregnancy.  

If you smoke, get help to quit

If you are a smoker, deciding to quit is one of the most important decisions you can make to prepare for a healthy pregnancy.  When you smoke, your baby gets less oxygen and nutrients.  This causes your baby to be born small and may lead to lifelong health problems. 
Smoking during pregnancy is dangerous for you too.  It can raise your blood pressure and increase the risk of complications during labour and delivery. Smoking while you are pregnant also increases the risk of having a miscarriage.
Visit the smokers’ helpline for support with quitting.  

Avoid second-hand smoke 

Second-hand smoke is just as bad as smoking for you and your baby. Make your home and car smoke-free.  If someone in your household smokes, encourage them to quit or not smoke around you. 

Bottom line 

It’s never too early to start planning for a healthy pregnancy. Speak to your health care provider about other important steps you can take as you plan for a healthy pregnancy.
If you have more questions about planning for a healthy pregnancy, call an EatRight Ontario Registered Dietitian at 1-877-510-510-2 or send an email

You may also be interested in:

Eating for a Healthy Pregnancy Menu Plan: Create a seven day meal plan to make healthy food choices easy. 
Facts about folate
Eating for a healthy pregnancy

Last Update – March 30, 2016

Phone Icon

Dietitians look beyond fads to deliver reliable, life-changing advice. Want to unlock the potential of food? Connect with a dietitian.